Posts Tagged ‘ White ’

Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black

Tim Wise anti-racist writer and activist wrote an interesting piece on the Don’t Tea on Me Blog (my friend Timmy tipped me off to it)

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure – the ones who are driving the action – we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on freerepublic.com last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

THOUGHTS?


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Princess and the Frog, Voodoo, & Evil

Over the past year there has been a lot of buzz about the Princess and the Frog which premiered in December. People were encouraged to see an African-American princess, but many were also disappointed that her suitor was not white (I value the multi-racial/ethnic aspect, but also hope that at some point we do see a black prince, more on that in another post). Some were also a little disappointed (spoiler alert!) that the princess spends most of the time as a frog (A concern I share, but I also believe there is so much fervor around the film and the New Orleanian African-American culture is portrayed so strongly that no one will forget she is Black)

Since the release there has been a new slew of critique considering the usage of Voodoo. From my perspective this has come mainly from mothers and/or evangelical Christians (which for clarification sake, I am not the former and only partially the latter).

I had no problems with the Voodoo given Disney’s propensity to use magic. Disney couldn’t use a witch or warlock because the film wasn’t in the context to use Wicca, it was in the context to use Voodoo. The reality is, the witches that we so readily view as “acceptable” evil characters are the white-European equivalent to Voodoo. There are various similarities in the way the spirit world is engaged and interestingly enough the Christian – mainly Catholic – response to these two sets of beliefs.

If you have a problem with magic or witches,  you should also have a problem with Cinderella, the Little Mermaid and most of Disney’s Princess films. What I think made the difference with Princess and the Frog is that this was a depiction of a culturally unfamiliar, but geographically close magic. Americans talk more readily about witchcraft, which makes it not as shocking. We have TV shows – including kid’s shows – about witchcraft, can you imagine having a TV show about Voodoo? Even the magic in Aladdin had been primed by years of I dreamed of Genie.  Voodoo is a partly American magic, but we don’t discuss it, thus when it is portrayed illicits more fear due to its unfamiliarity. Like with most things, we fear that which we don’t understand or is unfamiliar to us.

Perhaps the magic was a little more intense than what Disney has previously produced, but for whom? Children today are more used to intensity and reality than they were a generation ago. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes adults and especially Christian adults can be a little overprotective of our children. Remember the days when children could actually walk to the park, have adventures in the woods, not have to put on hand-sanitizer every time they stepped out of the house or do anything without helicopter parents swooping in? I believe children are much more imaginative, independent (not individualistic) , confident and mature when they are given the freedom to be themselves, be with friends, and be responsible for themselves and their thoughts. I am not saying we throw our children to the wolves. There is some mid-point.  Watch a child who learns anything, they have to be guided through the process. As adults we have to help children to become human beings who think, feel, critique etc. We are called to “raise” our children. Which may at times mean protect, but those words are not synonomus.

Truthfully, I would rather magic be presented realistically, because whether Wicca or Voodoo, it is real. I would rather have children realize the gravity of Magic as opposed to taking it lightly. Would I take a four-year old to the Princess and the Frog? No. But I wouldn’t take a four-year old to most Disney movies. Would I debrief with an eight year old? Yes. But I would do so for ANY movie we went to.

* By the way, things were intense in the Lion King. Remember that dark musical scene with Scar and the hyenas and the fact that Mufasa was murdered? Talk about evil. And there wasn’t even Magic involved . . . oh yea except for the illusions via Rafiki.

Words of a King

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

“Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.”

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love”.

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“The church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”

How White is your resume?

It is often joked that minorities are more likely to be hired because institutions want/need diversity, but the reality is research still shows that a White male with the same qualifications as a Black male is more likely to be hired for the same job. This bias specifically applies to resumes. “Ethnic” names and connections with Ethnic organizations (Latino United Fund, NAACP, HBCUs etc.) are seen as damaging for non-White applicants in corporate America. Thus, many Black candidates have chosen to remove or change information in order to “Whiten” their resume.

I cannot help but think of my own life experiences when I have felt as if it is necessary to assimilate to fit in and be accepted with White people in my school, college, neighborhoods and churches. Even if I did not assimilate, I let inconsiderate racial (and often political) comments go because I did not want to be the angry Black person that disagreed with everything. What is more dangerous is that I did not feel comfortable expressing my racial point of view, be it religious, social, political etc. (not all points of view are based on race, but race often mediates points of view).  I knew that the only way to be “in” with the majority and the folks in power was to not rock the boat and to be as much like them that I could – even if I was not honest to them or myself.

This is not solely an ethnic-minority issue.  Folks with Southern accents (notice the plural, there are a variety of Southern accents) are perceived as dumb or slow and females have their own set of roadblocks to overcome. The issue is one of culture. In this case, the acceptance of racial difference and the culture of those differences.

To a degree, it is understood that applicants must adapt to a professional culture. An applicant cannot interview in baggy jeans and a South Pole sweater (and one’s boss should view their employee or applicant differently if he or she sees them in the store with baggy jeans and a South Pole sweater), but when individuals feel as if they must augment or hide their legal name, educational background and ethnic identity we must classify this as ethnocentric and racist.

Nevertheless, even those who make it and are hired are often stuck. NPR  also posted a story on Blacks not advancing to high positions within corporations. Even institutions that “celebrate diversity” and have a diverse staff often fail to mentor ethnic-minorities and women into places of senior leadership. Although U.S. companies of various ilks may appear diverse, their leadership is generally ethnically homogeneous.

We have gone far, but we still have a long way to go.

Rugby and Reconcilation

Invictus may not be as popular as this year’s bigger holiday releases, but its poignant themes of justice and peace are both entertaining and redemptive.

Clint Eastwood’s Invictus has generated lots of buzz as a potential Oscar contender, and rightly so. But it’s unfortunate that bigger films like Avatar and Sherlock Holmes are drawing more attention from audiences, because Invictus presents a story that’s both entertaining and transformative.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island’s maximum-security prison after 27 years as a political prisoner whose only crime was resisting South Africa’s unjust apartheid laws. In 1994, Mandela became the first Black president of South Africa. In 1995, he began to reconcile his country through peace, justice, selflessness, and rugby.

Director Eastwood utilizes the superb talents of Morgan Freeman (Nelson Mandela) and Matt Damon (Francois Pienaar) to adapt John Carlin’s book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation to the silver screen.

Make no mistake — Invictus is an inspirational sports film. Those hoping for an epic history of Nelson Mandela’s trials and triumphs in office or a deep commentary on South Africa in 1995 will be disappointed. The film paints a decent background of South Africa in the mid-1990s and Eastwood and Freeman intentionally refrain from painting an idyllic picture of Mandela, but these are supportive elements for a story about reconciliation and the power of humility.

Noticing the brokenness of his country, Mandela views the South African national rugby union team, the Springboks, as an opportunity to promote a unified national pride. Mandela understands that the Afrikaners (White South Africans) are afraid of his administration and fear exile from a country that has become their home. Instead of exploiting his new position as an office of domination and vengeance, Mandela acts humbly and selflessly. Mandela calls the nation to seek peace not by changing their colors or the name of the Springboks. Rather, he asks his fellow Black citizens, who spent years viewing the Springboks as a symbol of apartheid, to embrace the team as their own.

The title “Invictus” (Latin for inconquerable) comes from the poem by William Ernest Henley. Mandela drew strength from Henley’s triumphant text while in prison, and he sends a handwritten copy of the poem to Pienaar to inspire him to lead South Africa’s team to the world championship. The eventual national embrace of the team transforms a symbol of division, racism, and hatred into a symbol of a “Rainbow Nation” growing towards reconciliation.

finish reading at Urban Faith.com

White Savior Stories

I have been back in forth on whether to write a post about The Blindside. Ultimately, I am choosing not to because there is a plethora of articles on the web about the racial, white-privilege undertones of the film.

However, the issue of White savior stories is still important. Many have tried to articulate that because The Blindside is a true story people should stop complaining about the racial issues. However, that is the exact problem. Most of the true stories about African-Americans (or ethnic-minorities) coming out of negative situation don’t involve White people. Films and books like The Pact, which display the determination of African-Americans without a major White figure in their lives, are not highlighted and these stories are not produced by major film studios and don’t get the literary notoriety. Why? Well, I don’t believe it is because the folks at these studios and publishing companies don’t care, they simply want to make money. People don’t go to see these films or read these books because they don’t have the same type of good feelings appeal, they don’t give the allusion that privileged folks – white or otherwise – must help the impoverished transcend their situation. Why do films like Lean on Me get ignored but Dangerous Minds, though rejected by critics, gaine mass success or why does Erin Gruwell have her story massively publicized through the production of  Freedom Writers while Geoffrey Canada ‘s story – no relation – gets little airtime? Just think about it.

It get a little frustrated with SNL and Mad TV because they are usually shallow and I find them offensive rather than insightful or comical,  but occasionally their parodies are actually good satire. Here is a funny and intelligent skit about White female character’s as saviors.

Like any good satire, it is funny because it is ridiculous, yet true. But like any satire it is supposed to make the viewer change themselves and society, not just laugh. So let’s start supporting more of the true stories of African-Americans not just the ones that make White people look good.

Don’t get me wrong, I value what White people do in African-American communities, but when we only highlight those stories, it gives the perception that African-Americans cannot overcome situations without White folks. I don’t want movies like Blindside to not be produced, I want to see more movies produced that show the reality of African-American transcendence of poverty and social oppression.

The larger issue of all of these “inspirational” stories, whether casted with a White lead, Black lead or otherwise, is that most true stories about African-Americans and other ethnic-minorities don’t involve coming out of poverty or socially difficult situations. Most true stories are just about life. I would ultimately like to see more films that don’t focus on the misfortune of ethnic-minorities. We need balance.

HP Racist?

HP responded on its blog.

“We are working with our partners to learn more,” HP said. “The technology we use is built on standard algorithms that measure the difference in intensity of contrast between the eyes and the upper cheek and nose. We believe that the camera might have difficulty ‘seeing’ contrast in conditions where there is insufficient foreground lighting.”

“Everything we do is focused on ensuring that we provide a high-quality experience for all our customers, who are ethnically diverse and live and work around the world,” HP continued. “That’s why when issues surface, we take them seriously and work hard to understand the root causes.”

I believe that HP is being up front, but I can’t help but ask why HP didn’t  test the camera on a variety of folks from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and in multiple lighting situations – maybe they did, but if so it seems it wasn’t sufficient.

HP isn’t a racist organization, but I do think this is an example of privilege based on skin gradient.  HP probably didn’t consider that the camera wouldn’t work the same with darker skinned individuals. It is kind of like band-aids not being mass produced in darker tones.